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Jeff Parker Trio - Bright Light in Winter

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Artist: Jeff Parker Trio

Album: Bright Light in Winter

Label: Delmark

Review date: May. 25, 2012

The latest Jeff Parker trio platter is slowly infectious. It’s superficially less varied than 2005’s Relatives, both in terms of sonic palette and songcraft. However, living with the disc for a while reveals subtlety of approach rather than any willful shift or abandoning of the past.

Parker has always been a master of what Wire so aptly called “the art of stopping.” As with much of their best material, the tracks on Bright Light in Winter segue suddenly, forming a nearly seamless suite. “Mainz”’s jump-cut linkage with “Swept out to Sea” will give a flavor for the approach, which is also the album’s most unsubtle characteristic. Despite the sudden switches in rhythm and feel, the instrumentation remains remarkably similar, and that goes for the rest of the nine tracks as well. Parker, bassist Chris Lopes and drummer Chad Taylor have their feet firmly planted in soil rich with 1960s Blue Note homage, and yet, any Grant Greene allusions are filtered through Parker’s well-cultivated staticity. His rendering of harmonies, like the delicious chords imbuing key moments of “Swept Out to Sea,” could never be mistaken. Even his love for more “out” sounds has not vanished; it’s simply been driven underground, emerging with disarming nuance, seemingly from thin air, to add just the right texture. Lopes’s bass solo on “Change” boasts one of these stretches. The light airy texture gradually thickens as Taylor’s in-the-pocket vamp is punctuated by tiny guitar jabs that coalesce into a semi-sweet brew way back in the mix. The single pitch, rife with overtones, hangs near the background at all times, swelling and fading ever so slightly to admirable effect. “Freakadelic” finds the group’s relatively clean sound threatening to disintegrate, never quite sounding like free jazz but veering in that direction.

These moments give the album a trajectory, a way for each disparate event to combine with the others, achieving a subtle unity. Bright Light in Winter is a disc of many intrigues.

By Marc Medwin

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